Punk rock is a weird and awesome thing.
When I was 14, I picked up “Damaged” by Black Flag on vinyl at Hot Topic after I had saw it #1 on a “Greatest Punk Albums Of All Time” list. I remember vividly putting it on my record player for the first time (which had previously only played my dad’s old records) and hearing the opening of “Ride Above” and thinking that it was one of the most intense things I had ever heard. From that point forward, I was out to hear more music that was THAT intense, THAT raw and THAT real.
Fast forward three years.. I turned on NBC to watch Saturday Night Live and in its place was WWE Saturday Nights Main Event. I had used to be into wrestling and stopped watching in 2002 after Stone Cold left, they changed the name to WWE, the brand extension took place and they were having a gay marriage on national television (Billy & Chuck). They were advertising WrestleMania 23 and Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Booker T, Kane, Chris Benoit and the ECW guys. I took an interest for nostalgia’s sake and it hooked me again just like it did when I was 8 years old.
I was watching WWE ECW one Tuesday evening after I got off work shortly after and a man by the name of CM Punk came out with a straight edge shirt, hands X’ed up and Killswitch Engage music. I immediately was hesitant to support this man because I thought that there was NO way that a guy who was a REAL punk was also a WWE wrestler. As the weeks went by, I really admired his in ring work and he quickly became my favorite wrestler on the roster even though I was still skeptical towards his gimmick.
Then I saw a video of him on WWE.com where he was wearing a Misfits shirt. And I was sold. THIS was MY guy and represented people like ME. HE WAS ONE OF US.
I attended SummerSlam 2008 in Indianapolis with my good friend Jeff LaFave and everyone was excited (as was I) about the Edge/Undertaker Hell In A Cell match but I was almost just as excited to see CM Punk defend his newly won World Heavyweight Championship against JBL, a guy that I despised at the time. I wore my Misfits shirt to show support.
Fast forward three more years… CM Punk was tired of all the same old political bullshit going on in the WWE and cut the infamous pipebomb promo and we all know how that went. I watched that promo live with my girlfriend at the time and as soon as it went off the air, I looked over at her and said “THAT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.” I remember showing up to band practice the next day still just gleaming with excitement about it. I remember telling our drummer Brett about it and he seemed to really pick up on my enthusiasm about the incident saying “It’s almost like its ONE OF US TELLING IT LIKE IT IS.” And I said “EXACTLY!”
The “Summer Of Punk” storyline (as it was dubbed) was the hottest wrestling angle in about ten years and nobody knew what was going to happen next. It was exciting and mysterious.
July 17th, 2011. It’s a date I’ll remember for the rest of my life for a few reasons. First of all, its was the 10 year anniversary of the passing of my father. It was also the one year anniversary of my first serious relationship. And it was also the day that CM Punk won the WWE Championship in his hometown from John Cena and “left” the WWE with it. Going into this match, I had no idea what was going to happen and when it concluded, I still had no idea. And it made me excited to be a wrestling fan. It was all scripted but it felt very real.
CM Punk inspired a lot of change in the WWE over the next two years. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman (who both had been unofficially blacklisted from the company) came back, the WWE signed a lot of indy stars and pushed a directionless Daniel Bryan to win the World Heavyweight Championship. CM Punk ended this run with a 434 day reign as WWE Champion (the longest reign since Hulk Hogan) and having a match with the legendary Undertaker at WrestleMania. He left to heal some nagging injuries (and I met him at an Alkaline Trio show while he was away) and came back a few months later.
One thing CM Punk has been very vocal about over the past few years is focusing and rewarding wrestlers who work hard and deserve it as opposed to older wrestlers who left and are coming back for a paycheck. And with the treatment of Daniel Bryan and the booking of The Rock and Batista, the product right now has taken a few steps back since CM Punk attempted to implement all this change a few years ago. It’s predictable. It’s boring. It’s just not as fun as it used to be.
So CM Punk quit.
Last Sunday was the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and it’s one of the biggest events of the year. Daniel Bryan was booked in the opening bout, put on the match of the night and lost. I think it was assumed that he would be in the Royal Rumble match later on that night and win (much like Bret Hart at WrestleMania X) while it was heavily rumored that the returning Batista would win. Punk was the first entrant in the match and lasted until the final four competitors. And Bryan did not appear in the match and Batista won as expected. The crowd in Pittsburg shat all over the show and the outcome of the match and the following night before Raw, Punk sat down with management and expressed his concerns with the current product, the lack of change and how he was just burnt out. So he told management that he was going home.
H2O has a song called “Family Tree” where singer Toby Morse sings “Don’t forget your roots.” I believe CM Punk has these lyrics tattooed on him as a constant reminder to not forget his punk rock upbringing. I think that’s why he has worn a Cro-Mags shirt on Monday Night Raw and went to Riot Fest. And CM Punk tried to implement change verbally and getting the fans involved but it seems like we’re all back at square one. So, to me, I think walking out on the WWE is CM Punk’s way of standing up for himself what’s not right with the current product. He left on his own terms. And he’s not forgetting his roots and where he came from. And to me, that’s punk rock.
A lot of people are inferring that this might be a work and part of an elaborate storyline but this is very real. The BBC picked up on the fan’s outrage on the Royal Rumble and TMZ has also reported on CM Punk quitting the company.
I’m not mad at CM Punk. Sure, I’m disappointed but I can understand his frustrations with his job. I had frustrations with my last job and I quit. CM Punk did the same thing. You can only tolerate eating shit for so long until you get disgusted by the taste of it. And I think anyone that has a freely thinking mind can relate to and understand what CM Punk is going through.